Childhood Revisited on Vancouver Island

Victoria

We spent a week on Van Isle after Krystopf and Atlas’s wedding.  It was really cool to show the Pie all the things I used to do when I was growing up.  I lived in Esquimalt, the town next to Victoria, for five years from 1990-1995, and it was definitely a memorable time in my life. We visited all the tourist-y spots in Victoria, and I took lots of pictures of the time we spent there (you can check out some of the photos here), but I’d like to focus more on one particular place we visited.

Victoria

If you grew up in a military family, chances are you spent some of your time living on a military base somewhere.  That’s common enough.  Esquimalt is home to three such military bases: Workpoint, the army base, Naden, the navy base, and Dockyard, which is also a navy base.  Thing is, there were only seven houses in Dockyard, which is not open to the public, so the fact that I got to live there for five years was a unique experience.  And what a great place to grow up!  There were only three little girls on a top-security navy base and we had the run of the place.  How safe can you get?  Of course, it was the only place I have ever had a gun pointed at me (I walked a little too close to a US nuclear submarine one day and learned never to do that again), and the only place I have ever been forced into the back of a military police car (totally not my fault, I swear), but these things happen …

Victoria
This is where my “arrest” took place. According to the MP who picked eleven-year-old me up, I was trying to climb a barbed wire fence. To break into the base. Where I lived.

My parents and I revisited the Dockyard in 2002, just after the horrors of 9/11, and it was a different place indeed.  The genial commissionaires at the gate were replaced by very serious soldiers holding AK-47s, and in my walks around the place I definitely didn’t feel that same sense of safety that I had as a child.  I think it was more that I was the outsider at this point.  This was no longer my home.

Dockyard

It seems that the schtick with the guns at the gate has only recently been removed, and we’re back to the genial commissionaires again, but even so, my dad had to get a special pass just for us to go and check the place out again.  Much of the base was under construction, and a lot of the operations there have been shut down since my time, but it was still so familiar.  As we drove around, my dad would talk about the history and use of the buildings we passed, while I would add my own anecdote about which battlements and cliffs and trees were climbable and which hidden places had the best blackberry bushes and apple trees.

Dockyard

The playing field behind our house where the Coast Guard used to land its helicopters (and take all the laundry off our line and put it on our roof) is now a parking lot.  The arbutus tree that the paratrooper landed in accidentally (and whom my dad rescued because he had the tallest ladder handy) has been cut down.  The student barracks with its secret tunnels (where we used to catch the cadets sneaking out for a drink) is now empty.  The deer are the same, though.

Dockyard
These pesky deer are so plentiful and so damaging that in Victoria they are considered vermin.

These tiny things are everywhere in the city, especially the base.  They swim across the harbour from the conservation area and eat all the plants.  Which I guess is why the base’s famous rose gardens are all gone. Even the ships are different, and the buildings mostly empty.

Dockyard
Those things have always been hanging in that window.

Some things never change, though.  This was my house.  It looks the same, except the garden is smaller.  My parents do love their gardens.

Dockyard

And directly across the street was the ocean, and this, Dead Man’s Island.

Dockyard

If you slid down the short cliff (now there are stairs built)  then you were on MY beach.  In the five years we lived on the base, I think I was at this beach every single day, rain or shine, or even snow (which did happen occasionally).

Dockyard

This fallen tree has been on this beach for as long as I can remember, though in my day it jutted out over the water and made for an interesting place to jump off into the frigid Pacific.

Dockyard

On a clear day you can see the Olympic Mountains, in Washington.

Dockyard
You can see the seal resting on a submerged rock in front of those exposed rocks.

And there is always stuff to be found, if you’re looking in the right places.  Like these tiny crabs I routed out from under a rock. They’re well-camouflaged.

Dockyard

And some bits and bobs of pottery and sea glass.  I still have some pieces I collected as a child.  You may remember I made some of them into my marine mobile a while back.

Dockyard

It was nice to play around for even a few minutes in a place where I had spent so much of my life.  We have lived so many different places, but this place is the one I remember the best, so it was nice to see it again.

Dockyard
The original wall to Dockyard, before it expanded.

On Monday I’ll have my final trip post for you, about the Pie’s and my adventures in a Smart Car.  Stay tuned!

Capilano Suspension Bridge

Happy Birthday Ando!

Capilano Suspension Bridge

When we were much younger, my brothers and I sailed with my dad on his ship across the strait from Victoria to Vancouver to see the sights.  Back then, I was too terrified to attempt the crossing at the Capilano Suspension Bridge, but the time had now come for me to face my fears.  Ando, his wife Teedz, and my two nieces, Tego and HG, decided to attempt the bridge while we were out west, and the Pie and I thought we would tag along.  I’m really glad we did.  In recent years, the rainforest surrounding the bridge has been turned into a huge educational conservation area, with lots of interesting stuff to see and do.  Admission is pretty steep ($28 for us students), but it’s worth it.

Capilano Suspension Bridge

Right off the bat, you head across the 450ft (137m) bridge, suspended from cables 230ft (70m) above Capilano River.  The Pie told me that the bridge would support 96 elephants, so I was not to worry about falling.  As long as there were no elephants around.

Capilano Suspension Bridge

Tego continually watched me for my reaction every time the bridge bounced under the feet of the hundred or so people crossing it at the time.

Capilano Suspension Bridge

The view of the river (a little low at this time of year) from the middle of the bridge.

Capilano Suspension Bridge

Once across, there were tons of things to see and do to get kids (and grownups) more in tune with the nature around them.  One such activity was to test out your wingspan.  HG was not pleased to be ONLY halfway between a raven and a great horned owl. She’s trying to make herself longer in this shot.

Capilano Suspension Bridge

Tego was happier to be a great horned owl, almost a goose.

Capilano Suspension Bridge

And the Pie broke the mould by being a giant, and an eagle at the same time.

Capilano Suspension Bridge

We were surrounded by so many ancient and massive trees, cedars and firs and all sorts of things.  It was quite a shock to come from Newfoundland, where trees are maybe the height of a house and live for about 40 years, to see things like this Douglas Fir, which was 205ft tall, 20ft in diameter, and about 1300 years old.

Capilano Suspension Bridge

Tego learned quickly what it means to be a tree hugger.

Capilano Suspension Bridge

HG didn’t find the tree’s height all that impressive.

Capilano Suspension Bridge

We also took part in the relatively new Treetop Adventure, which I actually found more nerve-wracking than the big bridge.

Capilano Suspension Bridge

Teedz, Ando, and HG were happier than me.

Capilano Suspension Bridge

But we got some great views and learned a whole bunch of stuff.

Capilano Suspension Bridge

Then we crossed back over the bridge …

Capilano Suspension Bridge

And went on the park’s newest attraction, the Cliff Walk, which is a wee construction sticking out from the side of the Capilano gorge.

Capilano Suspension Bridge

Tego watching to make sure I don’t freak out.

Capilano Suspension Bridge

Because the floor is made of GLASS in some parts.

Capilano Suspension Bridge

HG again was unconcerned.

Capilano Suspension Bridge

In fact she ran ahead while I clutched the rails.

Capilano Suspension Bridge

Once our ordeal was over, the Pie and HG were pleased to accept their certificates for having completed every activity station in the park.  What you can’t see (because it matches his shirt too well) is the Park Explorer button that HG won for completing the Tree Top adventure.  She gave it to her uncle because it didn’t go with her outfit.

Capilano Suspension Bridge

Definitely worth a visit!

Capilano Suspension Bridge